US President Donald Trump has cancelled his first official trip to Latin America to focus on the issue of a suspected chemical attack in Syria.
He will remain in Washington to “oversee the American response to Syria”, the White House said.
Meanwhile, the global chemical weapons watchdog has said it will send a fact-finding team to the site in Douma.
Syrian opposition activists, rescue workers and medics allege that bombs filled with toxic chemicals were dropped on Douma, in the Eastern Ghouta region, near the capital Damascus, by Syrian government forces.
The Syrian-American Medical Society said more than 500 people were brought to medical centres with symptoms “indicative of exposure to a chemical agent”.
Medical sources say dozens were killed in the alleged attack there, but exact numbers are impossible to verify.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said a team would deploy to Syria “shortly”.
It comes after Syria and its military backer, Russia, both said they wanted to facilitate a visit by inspectors. Syria denies being behind any chemical attack.
US Vice-President Mike Pence will travel in President Trump’s place for the Latin America trip, which begins in Peru for the Summit of the Americas.
Later on Tuesday, the UN Security Council will vote on competing US and Russian draft resolutions on the Syria incident. The US wants a new panel to be set up that would investigate and apportion blame for chemical attacks in Syria, but Russia is likely to veto the proposal.
The estimates of how many people died in the suspected chemical attack range from 42 to more than 60 people, but medical groups say numbers could rise as rescue workers gain access to basements where hundreds of families had sought refuge from bombing. (Excerpt from BBC).